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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

None injured in Friday blaze

Saturday, May 18, 2013 ~ Updated 10:46 PM

A downtown blaze occupied much of Friday morning for Greencastle and other area firefighters.

A total of 97 emergency responders from 18 agencies helped fight a fire that damaged approximately half of a city block on Washington Street.

At 7:21 a.m. Putnam County Dispatch received a call of heavy smoke coming from the backs of buildings on the southwest corner of Washington and Vine streets.

When all was said and done, flames or smoke were seen from buildings covering the east half of the block. Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent said that all buildings east of Eli's Books were affected in some way.

Those damaged businesses include Wilson's Photography, Wilson Formal Wear and Buzz Bomb Graphics; the Pawn Store; Dr. Perry Wainman DDS; and Greencastle Furniture.

No serious injuries were reported in the incident.

Firefighters combat the blaze that engulfed part of a block on Washington St. between Vine and Indiana St.
Arriving on the scene shortly after the dispatch, firefighters quickly knocked down the fire in its initial location -- the second-floor patio area on the back of the Pawn Store.

However, they soon discovered the blaze had spread beyond its initial location.

Much of the morning went this way for firefighters -- things would appear under control only to flare up again.

Newgent said having to switch between offensive and defensive firefighting is not ideal, but the responders did what they had to do.

"You always hope you can get there and make a good knockdown," Newgent said. "The construction of these kinds of buildings makes it more difficult. You will get hidden spaces between walls and in attics."

The chief commended the firefighters for their aggressive work that likely saved the block from much more extensive damage.

"Hats off to all these firefighters who came here today and to my guys," Newgent said. "Once we got it knocked down, they were in there and stopped that fire."

He said this method of fighting aggressively from the inside of the building goes much further limiting the damage of a fire.

"If you're shooting water from the outside, you're really waiting for it to burn through something," Newgent said.

The fire destroyed the roof of multiple buildings, leaving the sky visible through front windows and gutting second-floor rooms. [Order this photo]
Through the morning, more and more firefighters arrived on the scene, providing both manpower and equipment to the effort.

Other county departments included Bainbridge, Cloverdale, Clinton Township, Fillmore, Floyd Township, Madison Township, Reelsville and Roachdale.

From outside the county, Crawfordsville, Brazil, Danville and Plainfield all provided assistance, such as additional aerial trucks for battling the fire from above.

At around 10 a.m. the smoke died down significantly and flames were no longer visible from outside the buildings.

As of 10:20 a.m., Newgent told the Banner Graphic the fire was under control and firefighters were moving into the extensive overhaul phase of the operation.

Greencastle Police, Putnam County Sheriff's deputies and Indiana State Police provided traffic and crowd control. In spite of the police presence, traffic in downtown was a mess at times, with large trucks attempting to travel narrow city streets rather than bypassing on South Jackson Street and Veterans Highway.

Several blocks of Washington Street and its cross streets remained blocked off into the afternoon as the overhaul and investigation stages of the operation continued.

The outcome of the investigation is inconclusive, although Newgent said there was nothing suspicious about the origin of the fire.

The fire definitely started in the patio area on the second floor of the Pawn Store. A description of what one witness saw and heard is consistent with an electrical fire in the ceiling.

This possibility is further supported by the presence of a ceiling fan on the porch. However, the scene lacks conclusive evidence, as it burned up in the fire.

The roof over the Pawn Store and Wainman's office was destroyed, as were the insides of the second floors of these buildings. The lower levels sustained smoke and heavy water damage.

In the Wilson building to the east and the Trudy and Greg Selvia-owned building to the west, the problems were contained to mostly water and smoke damage.

Joe Garrison, who owns Greencastle Furniture on the first floor of the Selvia building, said the inventory in his store can be replaced.

"I don't care," Garrison said. "I'm just glad nobody was hurt. That's 100 percent of what matters."

In Eli's Books and Starbucks on the west end of the block, there was no evidence of damage of any sort.

"I didn't even really smell smoke when we were in there," Newgent said.

Newgent and Assistant Chief Jeff Mace estimated damages to be in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million.

Firefighters were also assisted at the scene by Putnam County Operation Life, ensuring the health of the firefighters.

"We were fortunate," Operation Life Executive Director Kraig Kinney said. "We were mostly doing rehab stuff -- monitoring vital signs just to make sure the firefighters were staying healthy."

Red Cross volunteers were also on the scene to assist the firefighters and victims, setting up shop at the Masonic Temple. They distributed food and drink donated by local businesses to the many responders at the scene.

City utility and public works employees, as well as Vectren and Duke also provided support.

Duke shut down power to several blocks for a time Friday morning so that firefighters could safely put water on the buildings. Power was later restored to all but the affected block.

As of 3 p.m., the fire department had turned the scene back over to the owners. A crew from 1-800-BOARDUP provided weather proofing for the buiilding.

Even with the heavy damage, all involved appeared to be counting their blessings that no one was hurt and the fire did not spread further.

Newgent again credited the firefighters for this.

"They were aggressive and did a wonderful job."

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So sorry for everyone involved the community will be here for you

-- Posted by talkymom3 on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 9:51 AM

I never heard sirens..live a block away..

-- Posted by Shellie Graham on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 10:16 AM

Does anyone know the current status of the fire? Or how many businesses were affected? From my view at work, the smoke has lessened. Is it out?

-- Posted by suzannehassler on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 10:43 AM

Prayers for all involved

-- Posted by foxtrotter on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 10:56 AM

Thanks for the on location reporting and news update. Banner-Graphic is great!

-- Posted by suzannehassler on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 10:59 AM

Our thoughts and prayers are with all who have been affected by the fire.

-- Posted by askeitelsflorist on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 11:36 AM

Shellie, is your house sound proof? I live 4 or 5 blocks away and I heard sirens for a long time... then I heard the helicopter.

-- Posted by momof2ingreencastle on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 1:17 PM

I knew something major was happening when I heard all the sirens this morning. Then as I traveled east on 40 to work, 3 more firetrucks passed heading west.

So very thankful everyone is safe including the firefighters.

-- Posted by lbriones on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 1:38 PM

Thanks for all concerned about the business owners. The material can be replaced, no big deal. I am just glad the residents that live in the upstairs apartments are safe, and the general public unharmed. Thank you to all the firefighters and police that worked so hard to contain and fight this fire. -Joe Garrison, Owener of Greencastle Furniture

-- Posted by GRNT on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 2:24 PM

Thoughts and prayers to all affected by today's fire. Blessings and huge thank you's to all the firefighters, city employees, utility workers & everyone else helping out. With all the improvements going on in the downtown area, this tragedy is truly heart breaking to a community trying to improve.

-- Posted by arwarren on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 3:10 PM

Perhaps it would be best if everyone checked and double checked their facts before posting. The Stellar Communities grant money for facade renovations was available to all downtown businesses. However, participants must provide ten percent of the full funding for their building's renovation, an "opt-in" commitment, if you will--a requirement of the state. Also, there was an application process with deadlines, which businesses may or not have been able to meet--obviously many did. This was a very transparent process, well publicized in the local papers and through the City of Greencastle website. Don't cast aspersions unless you know the full story. Greencastle might not have received any monies at all if DePauw hadn't pitched in to help with the application process.

Have you ever thought what kind of town we would have if DePauw was not here? It would be a huge blow to the city's economy! For 175 years it has been a consistent plus for Putnam County. As reported in the Banner a few years back, "the Louisville, Kentucky-based EconImpact performed a comprehensive review of the University over the 2003-04 academic year. The findings showed that one dollar of every $10 in business spending in Greencastle is generated by DePauw; the ratio is 1 to 12 for all of Putnam County."

-- Posted by basilrosemary on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 4:16 PM

For those who were displaced or lost their businesses, you have my sincere sympathy. Thank God you are all physically safe. I trust the community will turn out to support you with the losses of those things that are replaceable.

!!!!!!CHEERS!!!!!!! for all the firefighters, police personnel, utility workers, etc., who helped prevent the fire from becoming an even bigger tragedy.

-- Posted by basilrosemary on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 4:35 PM

"Oldlocal," you say only one thing I agree with and that is in the second sentence of the last paragraph and is as follows: "I'm confused..." You most certainly are and you must have your head stuck up your rear end, as well. If you don't know what you're talking about why not just keep your bizarre thoughts to yourself? You clearly don't have any idea about what is going on downtown with the Stellar Grant and all the investment that is going to make this downtown great once again. And "no" I am not an employee or a graduate of DePauw or at all associated with DePauw, but I do own a building on Vine Street and if Depauw was interested in acquiring property, mine would certainly be one of them, as it is on the corridor between campus and downtown. Nobody from DePauw or an agent of theirs have ever contacted me about selling my property, nor would I be willing to sell at this time.

-- Posted by rosco&ginger on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 4:40 PM

To suggest that the college burned down a building, (which is exactly what you did, oldlocal),is really out of line. Put your energy into helping those hurt instead, it would be more useful.

Well done, and thanks to first responders, including bystanders who tried to help.

-- Posted by localmom44 on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 4:49 PM

oldlocal: Today our town saw the face of caring, brave and competent first responders and we liked what we saw. Then we heard from the first complainer and first conspiracy theorist. I wonder which one you are?

-- Posted by louisvilleslugger on Fri, May 17, 2013, at 10:29 PM


-- Posted by lhmh on Sat, May 18, 2013, at 11:55 AM

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